An immunohistochemical and morphometric study has been performed on splenic tissue of 10 patients with primary (idiopathic) osteomyelofibrosis (OMF) to determine characteristic features of megakaryocytopoiesis in myeloid metaplasia. Using the periodic acid-Schiff reaction (PAS) and particularly the monoclonal antibody CD61 (Y2/51), all elements of this cell lineage including precursors could be identified. In comparison with bone marrow specimens from our file material (40 patients with OMF, 15 control cases) which were processed in a similar way, megakaryocytes in the spleen revealed significant differences. These differences included smaller cell sizes, a disturbed nuclear-cytoplasmic ratio, and a conspicuous increase in the relative frequency of promegakaryoblasts. In conclusion, extramedullary megakaryocytopoiesis in OMF did not only show more pronounced abnormalities of differentiation, but also a higher degree of immaturity. Our finding of a significant accumulation of megakaryocytic precursors in the spleen as opposed to the bone marrow, corroborates the so-called filtration theory which has been introduced to explain the evolution of splenic myeloid metaplasia in OMF.

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